The 355 continues the new ugly female action movie series

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Every part of Simon Kinberg’s turgid and goofy spy movie The 355 Sounds good on paper: Five of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actresses reunite to represent global intelligence operatives fleeing their respective governments, in a film that Oceans 8 and the Jason Bourne, James Bond and Mission: Impossible franchises with the recent trend towards aggressively female action films. (From 2021 only: Kate, Milkshakes with powder, The protected, and Shaking.) In their unification, women denote inclusion, empowerment and validation. The 355The absurd script of, written by Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg, rams these positives down the throat of the audience, never making them specific or insightful enough to mean anything.

For Kinberg, author of Brad Pitt / Angelina Jolie’s star vehicle in 2005 Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the spy genre should be familiar territory. In fact, you can see him achieving the same romantic dynamic between his tracks here. CIA agents Mace (Jessica Chastain) and Nick (Sebastian Stan) open the film while attempting to recover a deadly data key held in Paris by Luis (Édgar Ramírez) turned Colombian agent of the DNI. Although Nick is in love with Mace and even proposes to him, she doesn’t want to give up her high-energy career in favor of a stable life. Chastain and Stan, unfortunately, are not Jolie and Pitt. They have all the chemistry of cheap red wine spilled on a white carpet.

Kinberg complicates the setup with a lackluster web of intrigue: Chastain and Stan compete with other governments trying to retrieve the data key. Their agents on the ground include the firmly independent German BDN agent Marie (Diane Kruger) and Graciela (Penélope Cruz), a married mother of two and a DNI therapist who is close to Luis and who hopes to bring him back into the fold. The quartet are later betrayed by an unknown villain whose identity doesn’t require a lot of brain power to figure out. Their respective countries all believe they have become defectors as well, so to clear their names, Mace, Graciela and Marie team up with MI6 computer scientist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o) and Chinese agent MSS Lin Mi Sheng ( Fan Bingbing).

Photo: Universal images

Of the quintet, Chastain is the least credible as a spy. When speaking with her headset hidden, she often puts her hand maddeningly almost around her entire head, making her blanket obvious in a crowd. In sequences where the five women attempt to infiltrate a Moroccan bazaar, costume designer Stephanie Collie opts for ostentatious rather than practical style, dressing Chastain in a giant white fedora and cream suit. Who wouldn’t see a sumptuously dressed white woman talking to herself, one hand covering her ear, among a crowd of plainly dressed brunettes?

Questionable costume decisions aren’t the only craft mistake. Although The 355 tries to maneuver with the kinetic verve of a globetrotting adventure, the shoot marks on generic sets are all over this movie. Sometimes the only visual difference between Shanghai and Morocco is whether the spy quintet is standing in front of a wall with Arabic characters scrawled on it, or Chinese letters instead.

The action sequences also leave a lot to be desired. A foot chase involving Chastain and Stan in Paris, relying on sudden zooms and harmful portable camera movements, sounds like a hollow pastiche of the Jason bourne shake-cam action style, which is both a huge shot for action movies, and now passed. Another chase, meandering through shipping containers and enlarging dock cranes, bears similarities to the epic building setting of Casino Royale, but without the fun or the quality.

It might be easier to digest these lower tributes than from higher movies if The 355the premise of didn’t feel so dated. The key to data the quintet wants to recover has the ability to hack into bank accounts, security systems and information around the world. It is apparently the only one that exists. In Mace’s words, the device could let ill-intentioned countries exist in the shadows, rather than operating in the open. This common technology is not new, however, it is ubiquitous in real life. And the concept of unknown enemies wreaking havoc behind the scenes is just as common in spy movies, with movies like Fall from the sky and Enemy of the State approach it in a much more intriguing way.

Photo: Universal images

Kinberg tries to blend this outdated concept into a feminist story with a well-meaning goal, but tight-fisted execution. Without any configuration to justify the jump, he calibrates these women’s mission as a unified battle against a misogynist system. But apart from the dialogue on the nose around the conclusion of the film – the villain ignites for an agent: “You were beaten by a group of girls! “- Kinberg never beckons a specific misogynist target to deal with or defeat. He just sickeningly suggests that the mere idea of ​​five women working together is inherently empowering.

A later fight scene featuring the quintet of spies battling a rogue agent in a skyscraper borrows heavily from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but without the same verve or intensity. At this point, these stars, all solid performers in their own right, have made an entire movie that falls short of their talent. The work they put into physical training and nailing their fight choreography is visible. They accumulate individual highlights: Cruz, in particular, offers a performance on the floor. But at every turn, the cinema shakes them, empty compositions (like Netflix’s evil-begotten action flick Red Notice, The 355 relies on a wide screen without filling the frame) unimaginatively editing and nauseating camera movement.

Kinberg desperately wants this spy adventure to run on par with other venerable action franchises, but it takes more than star power or even a good cause to reach such heights. This kind of quality requires careful drawing and thoughtful writing. (You never know how these spies can travel the world undetected in a state of modern surveillance, after their respective governments burn them down.) The final scene, a left comedy for the sexist at the heart of this plot, involves women watching a happy family. They lament that their accomplishments will never be known or remembered. It would be better, for everyone involved, unfortunately, if this poorly designed film was also forgotten.

The 355 opens in theaters Jan.6.


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